Stories indexed with the term ‘football’

Column: In Praise of The Mud Bowl

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Tomorrow morning, one of Michigan’s oldest traditions will be on display. No, not at the Big House, but at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house.

That’s where they’ve played something they call The Mud Bowl every year since 1933, the same season Jerry Ford played center for the national champion Wolverines, and Columbia University won the Rose Bowl.

Back then, the leap from the Mud Bowl to the Rose Bowl was a lot smaller than it is today. Oh, and a new venture called the National Football League was little more than a decade old, but few cared. Today college football is a lot closer to the NFL than it is to the Mud Bowl – which still doesn’t charge its spectators a dime.

Last fall, I woke up on a cold, rainy Saturday morning to see the tradition for myself. [Full Story]

Main & Packard

At Ashley Mews, a wolverine head clutches a stray arm labeled “Akron” in its jaws. Arms labeled EMU CMU and Notre Dame hang limply. Arms?? I thought today’s event called for two teams of 11 men on a side to contest a game of foot ball. [photo]

Column: Super Bowl Reflections

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

It’s been five days since the Super Bowl, just enough time to give us a little perspective on the whole thing. Was it a football game? A concert? A competition for the Clio Award? Or some bizarrely American combination of all three?

Let’s start with the least important: The football game. You might have caught bits of it, squeezed between the ads and the show. How could you tell when the game was on? Those were the people who ran really fast, and wore clothes.

For the Super Bowl’s first 30 years, most of the games were boring blowouts. I suspect even the players can’t recall the scores of those snoozers.

But the ads and the halftime shows were hard to forget, and often featured a member of the Jackson family having his hair ignited or her wardrobe mysteriously malfunction.

But lately, it’s been the other way around. Ten of the past 16 games have been barn burners – and the rest of the stuff is putting us to sleep. [Full Story]

Column: Detroit Fans Might Party Like It’s 1935

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Once in a while something happens that is so unusual, even those who don’t normally pay attention have to stop and take notice.

Halley’s Comet, for example, only comes along once every 75 years. Man has landed on the moon just six times in the entire history of the universe. And Lindsay Lohan goes to jail – no, wait, that happens almost every week.

Well, this week, Detroit sports fans got Halley’s Comet, a moon landing, and a clean and sober Lindsay Lohan all wrapped up into one: The Tigers clinched the American League Central Division, and even more shockingly, the Lions won their first three games.

That’s right: It’s September 30, and both the Tigers and the Lions are in first place. Go find a newspaper – if your town still has one – pull out the standings, and get them laminated. This might not happen again in our lifetimes. [Full Story]

Column: Video Replay Review for City Council

When the University of Michigan Wolverines play Big Ten opponents in football, the video record of some plays can be reviewed by game officials – under conditions set forth by the conference. One kind of reviewable play is the completion of a forward pass: Did that player actually receive the ball from the quarterback in a way that, under the rules of American football, constitutes a completed pass than can be carried forward on the field of play?

city council audio tape

Audio tape recording of the Feb. 17, 2009 Ann Arbor city council meeting – even though the Community Television Network video has gone missing, it's still possible to review what was said at the meeting. The Ann Arbor city clerk's office makes audio recordings of council meetings to ensure the accuracy of minutes. (Photo illustration by The Chronicle.)

For its proceedings, the Ann Arbor city council does not have a video replay rule.

But if it did, here’s the kind of play that might be reviewable: Did a city council-appointed board receive advice from the city’s financial quarterback in a way that, under ordinary rules of plain American English discourse, constitutes a recommendation that should be carried forward in a future board policy?

At issue is whether two seasons ago, back in February 2009, city of Ann Arbor CFO Tom Crawford recommended to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority that the DDA have a policy to maintain a minimum fund balance as a reserve, and specifically, whether a minimum reserve amount was specified.

The question was important over the last two years in the course of negotiations between the DDA and the city about the contract under which the DDA manages Ann Arbor’s public parking system.

The remarks made by Crawford – which everyone seems to recall (albeit differently) – took place in plain view on the public field of play, at the Feb. 17, 2009 city council meeting.

What made the public conversation remarkable in the waning stages of contract negotiations, was that it was based on what the different players (including Crawford) recalled Crawford saying. Why not just take an approach familiar to the Big Ten college football conference, and review the tape to find out exactly what Crawford said? [Full Story]

Column: Super-Hyped Super Bowl

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Forty-five years ago, the Super Bowl … wasn’t even the Super Bowl. They called it the NFL-AFL Championship Game, until one of the founders renamed it after watching his grandson play with a “High Bouncing Ball” – a super ball. Super ball – Super Bowl. Get it? And thus, an artificial event was born.

Tickets were just fifteen bucks for that first game – and they barely sold half of those, leaving some 40,000 empty seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

A 30-second ad cost only $42,000 – and they weren’t any different than the ads they showed the previous weekend. The half-time show featured three college marching bands – including one you might have seen from the University of Michigan.

Over the next couple decades, of course, the event became a veritable national holiday. Tickets now sell for thousands of dollars, and ads for millions. The game attracts more than 100 million viewers in the U.S. alone. [Full Story]

Super Bowl: Dry Heaves for the Packers!

Editor’s note: Chronicle sports columnist John U. Bacon is on hiatus writing a book about University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez’s three seasons coaching the Wolverines. As Super Bowl Sunday approaches – a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers – we are pleased to offer a guest column from Ann Arbor resident Zach London. This piece appeared originally in the February edition of London’s monthly newsletter The Hard Taco Digest. Each month, the digest includes a link to an original song composed and recorded by London, and he has committed to this monthly musical project until he is dead.

Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers are good at football

The evolution of Green Bay Packers fan Zach London from 1997 to 2011.

Nicholas Dodman is an animal psychologist who wrote a book entitled, “The Dog Who Loved Too Much.” I haven’t read it, but the first chapter was described to me as follows: The author has a patient, a dog, who loves her owner too much. When the owner leaves the house each morning, she becomes so worried that he won’t return that she loses control of her bladder.

She paces around the house peeing on everything. When he finally comes home at 5 p.m., she is so overjoyed to see him that she throws up. The joy is so pervasive that she vomits constantly until he leaves again the next morning, at which point the bladder problem kicks in again.

That is how I feel about the Green Bay Packers.

It is a special kind of staggering love that only emotionally disturbed dogs and true sports devotees can experience. We soar, we suffer, and we soar again, and all of it is unhealthy. [Full Story]

Column: Thanksgiving for the Lions

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

If it seems like the Detroit Lions have played on Thanksgiving since it became a national holiday, it’s because they actually started seven years earlier.

True, the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in October of 1621, but the custom faded, resurfacing only when George Washington, Abe Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt promoted the idea as a national tonic in troubled times. FDR tried to move the unofficial holiday back a week to expand the shopping season, but Congress put an end to all the feast-fiddling in 1941, when it fixed Thanksgiving’s date forever and declared it a national holiday.

George Richards was way ahead of them. In 1934 Richards bought the Portsmouth, Ohio, Spartans, for $7,952.08, moved them to Detroit, and renamed them the Lions. Incredibly, they won their first 10 contests to tie the Chicago Bears for first place with three games left. The bad news: only about 12,000 people seemed to care. If the Lions couldn’t catch on at 10-0, Richards knew, their days in Detroit were numbered. [Full Story]

Column: Beyond the Super Bowl Hype

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

It’s hard to think of too many endeavors that receive more overblown attention than do sports. And within sports, nothing’s more overblown than the Super Bowl.

This time around, we’re getting endless stories about President Obama picking the New Orleans Saints – because … that matters? – a preview of the ads scheduled to run during the game, and several hundred articles analyzing the recuperation of Dwight Freeney’s sprained right ankle, and how that might affect national security. Or some such.

But in the midst of this morass are two stories worth telling. [Full Story]

Column: Notre Dame’s Rise, and Fall

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The Michigan Wolverines might have the most wins in college football history, and the highest winning percentage, but the Wolverines have never captured the nation’s imagination like the Fightin’ Irish of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame’s success is partly the Wolverines’ fault. Knute Rockne wanted to get his Fightin’ Irish into the Big Ten in the worst way – but Michigan’s Fielding Yost wanted to keep them out even…worser.

Yost probably expected Rockne to take his team and go home – but Rockne had other ideas. He took his team to Chicago and Boston, which had large Catholic populations, and built a following. He also scheduled games in Yankee Stadium – in front of the national media – and in Los Angeles, in front of Hollywood hot-shots.

And that’s why Notre Dame didn’t shrink without the Big Ten, but grew into the only college team with a national following. The sports writers told tales of The Four Horseman, while the movie makers immortalized the Irish with films from “Knute Rockne: All American” – starring young Ronald Reagan as the Gipper – to “Rudy.” [Full Story]

Michigan Tailgate Tries for Zero Waste

woman with brown T-shirt holding hands as if to catch something standing next to recycling station

This is not Martavious Odoms of the University of Michigan football team preparing to catch a winning touchdown pass from Tate Forcier. It's Alexi Ernstoff, who's preparing to "take the snap" from an UM alum who's got a plate piled with refuse headed her direction. (Photo by the writer.)

In Ann Arbor on Saturday, the visiting Hoosiers came up three points shy in a homecoming game against the University of Michigan football team. Final score: 36-33.

And at a pre-game tailgate hosted by the UM Alumni Association, a team of  Student Sustainability Initiative (SSI) volunteers came up at least three coffee creamer containers shy of their goal: a “zero waste” tailgate.

Those three coffee creamer containers came from Edward J. Vander Velde – from the 50th reunion class of 1959 – who kidded the volunteers who were staffing one of the waste stations inside Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, saying, “We’re still short of perfect!”

The coffee creamers weren’t the only items that still wound up in the trash instead of the compost bins, or the paper containers, or the bottle receptacles.

But according to SSI board member Greg Buzzell, who’s studying at UM’s Erb Institute, early post-tailgate estimates are that the zero-waste effort diverted about 500 pounds of material from the landfill to the compost pile, and that the tailgate generated “really very minimal” trash. [Full Story]

Column: Fifth & Madison Movie Production

traffic control cone

Pedestrian traffic control cone, movie-set style.

The movie “Betty Anne Waters” has widely been reported to tell the true story of a woman who puts herself through law school to prove the innocence of her brother, who’s been wrongly convicted of murder – hence the name of the local company formed to produce the move, Innocence Productions.

But based on the one scene The Chronicle saw filmed Thursday morning, this movie might just be about football. The evidence, which I humbly submit for our readers’ consideration, is a shot in which a young boy stands in the front yard of a house, waves towards it and says, “Mom, let’s go, we’re going to miss the kickoff!” [Full Story]